The latest industry term, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), is rapidly gaining ground in the world of storage, but end users still need convincing of its return on investment (RoI) during a recession.
In December, IDC predicted that 2009 would be a developmental year for desktop virtualisation technology, with lots of pilot activity. The analyst believes the technology will enter the mainstream from 2010.
Coined by VMware, the term VDI is a variation on the client-server computing model, where desktop operating systems are hosted within a virtual machine running on a centralised server.
Matt Piercy, channel director for Northern Europe at VMware, claimed the vendor is the leader when it comes to virtualising servers, but that it is entering unfamiliar territory.
“VDI is a key area for VMware, so we will start to see more marketing around it this year,” he said.
“Over the past 18 months we have added to our channel with new portals and opportunities. We are getting good feedback on how we engage with our channel, but will add to that with more VDI training in 2009.”
Professional services consultancy the Specialist IT Services Group (SITS Group) recently partnered with rival virtualisation vendor Parallels to offer northern businesses an alternative to VMware and Citrix.
Phil Cambers, commercial director at SITS Group, said that because VDI is an
emerging market, end users need to be educated to de-mystify the subject.
“VDI is not a quick sale like a printer, it takes time it is up to the reseller to educate end users on the benefits of VDI and the RoI,” he said.
“In the current climate it is the financial not the technical departments that are making the decisions, so they are not experts.”
Pitched as an alternative to traditional hyper-based products, Parallels Virtuozzo Containers create virtual servers so that multiple isolated workloads run simultaneously.
Russell Blackburn, country manager for the UK and Ireland at Parallels, said server-based computing is not a new concept, but there are challenges to be addressed with the emergence of VDI.
“End users need to realise the savings before they invest, so it is crucial they are educated soon. This year will reveal what users’ acceptance will be like. Users can get an estimated 80 per cent saving over three years.”
However, Blackburn advised that some VDI requires a large amount of storage, so it may work out more expensive.
“VDI is not always the cheaper option. It depends on the customer’s budget and requirements,” he said.
Kevin Collins, solutions development manager at distributor Magirus, agreed that VDI is gaining ground this year, but said there is a degree of measured investment.
“The customer can use an existing desktop so it is harder to prove RoI. A refresh of hardware is usually the time to introduce VDI and the benefits surrounding it,” he said.
“We tell our partners to talk to the customer and see if we can help them.”
Collins said the distributor’s reseller partner Aegis has been experiencing interest from customers in the education sector, having won a contract recently to roll out 800 virtualised desktops at a UK university.
Marcus Thompson, regional sales director at vendor LeftHand Networks, said: “The market for VDI is going to be significant think of the number of desktops that could be converted into virtual machines to see the enormity of the proposition.
“Technology is advancing around making more efficient use of storage capacity by storing unique data tied to particular virtual desktops. If you have 600 desktops running Windows XP you do not want to be storing 600 identical copies of that operating system.”
Counteract the credit crunch
Thompson said given the current financial climate, the channel has a very important role to play in helping customers get the most out of their infrastructure.
“The storage costs associated with VDI deployments have been perceived as one of the major barriers to entry for some customers and these costs have been multiplied, in part, by inefficient approaches to storing virtual desktops,” he said.
“By offering storage specifically optimised for VDI deployments, channel partners may sell less storage capacity, but they will also make VDI a far more accessible technology.”
Piercy at VMware agreed that VDI will chime well with customers in a
“Virtualisation is really about optimising expenditure, so it is perfect in today’s climate,” he claimed.
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